Teleconferencing is quickly catching on as employees attempt to avoid stand-still rush hour traffic and employers attempt to go green. With great flexibility comes great gadgetry. Unfortunately, many remote employees drop too much money on programs they don’t actually need.
Whether you’re setting up your first PC-based telecommuting office or trying to convince your boss to let you spend Fridays at home, check out our list of the best programs and software to get you through your work day.
Yes, you can technically use Skype to group chat and participate in a video conference. But with unreliable connections and limited usability, it’s not the most professional of tools for the home office. Instead, try a service like onConference, which will give you 24/7 assistance in case you or your callers have any issues.
The service charges you 19 cents per minute and per line, but it’s an expense you should be able to justify to your company. Unlike other services, though, it will only charge the person who is hosting. This is a perk for your clients who won’t end up paying a third party just for the privilege of speaking with you.
Google Docs has been the go-to for group collaboration. Take the same power home with you for your home office. It will let you work on the same document as a co-worker across the country. If you haven’t used Docs in a while, it’s worth a second look. They’ve added the options to create online forms, presentations (think a minimalistic PowerPoint), and even collections that let your organize projects.
Unlike the functionality of Dropbox, Google Docs lets you see changes being made in real-time. Dropbox is convenient for file sharing, but not for active collaboration. There’s a distinct difference, but far too often people try to get by on file sharing when they should be working together, simultaneously. Set up a Google Doc and some sort of chat program (Skype works well here) and you should be on your way to working as if you were on location.
Sometimes co-workers feel the need to peek over at each other’s screens to explain things. Working remotely doesn’t take this desire away magically. Luckily, join.me provides a pretty nice fix. You can share control of the screen so you can point things out and they can respond. It allows for up to 250 viewers, but it’s doubtful you’ll need more than five. You can set up join.me for meetings and for simple collaboration on projects that are too big for Google Docs to handle, such as when you’re using Creative Suite programs like PhotoShop.
Join.Me is free, but offers a paid version that’s really only necessary if the entire office is comprised of remote employees.
Jesse Langley lives near Chicago and is a frequent contributor here at WindowsTalk. He divides his time among work, writing and family life. He has a keen interest in blogging and social media and also writes for Professional Intern.